Coming out of the high school season, Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, Thon Maker and Jayson Tatum stood out from the rest of the crowd in the class of 2016. As the July evaluation period nears, those four still stand above the rest as Rivals expands the rankings in the rising junior class from a top 60 to a top 100.
No change at the top for 2016
Coming out of the 2013-14 high school season and heading into the grassroots basketball circuit, Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, Thon Maker and Jayson Tatum ranked No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the class of 2016. So far, there has been no change in the group of tightly packed elite talents.
A 6-foot-7 wing from Detroit, Jackson retains his edge at the top spot because of great size for his position, extreme athleticism and his ability to play at both ends of the court. There were some stretches during the spring where he didn't score quite as consistently in a halfcourt setting, but when it mattered, he always turned it on. While each member of the top four has their own strengths, Jackson's open floor ability is elite and his ability to fly up and down the floor at full speed while handling the ball and making decisions is special. He is a great perimeter defender and when he gets on a roll with his jumper, he is absolutely unstoppable.
But, let's make this clear. His hold on the top spot is tenuous at best.
Hanging in at the second spot, Giles is just nearing 100 percent after last summer's knee injury and only started playing with his CP3 summer squad in the latter part of May after missing his entire sophomore season. The 6-foot-10 sophomore power forward from North Carolina has tremendous size, athleticism and skill for a young power forward and he showed toughness in working his way back to the floor in less than a year. Now that he is back playing, though, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can start producing at a level equal with his ranking.
Rivals.com came very close to elevating Maker from No. 3 all the way to the top spot. At seven-feet tall, the slender big man can really run the floor, changes the game around the rim and is quite skilled. During the latter part of the spring, Maker began to show a greater focus on playing around the rim on both ends of the floor. He does have the skill to face the hoop and attack bigs off the dribble or make jumpers, but he has been more productive whenever he focuses on getting going in the low post first. There is a very real chance that he could make a move to the class of 2015 before it is all said and done, but whether he stays in 2016 or moves to 2015, he could find himself moving to the top spot with a strong summer.
Rounding out the elite group of four at the top, the 6-foot-7 Tatum is a true jack-of-all-trades. The native of St. Louis handles the ball deftly, is an exceptional passer and he has made significant strides with his deep jump shooting while getting much stronger and more athletic. The difference between Tatum and the three ranked ahead of him is minimal and he is the most consistent performer of the top four.
Four guards make five-star noise
The most notable moves at the top of the 2016 rankings were made by a quartet of guards. Point guard Dennis Smith and shooting guard Malik Monk were already five-stars before making jumps while point guard Derryck Thornton and combo guard Kobi Simmons made moves from four to five-star range.
Previously ranked No. 16, Smith took the grassroots circuit by storm while making the leap all the way up to No. 5. The 6-foot-2 floor general from North Carolina stays in attack mode at all times, drives relentlessly and is a respectable jump shooter from deep.
Moving from No. 12 to No. 6, Monk is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Arkansas. Arguably the most explosive backcourt player in the class of 2016, Monk has done a nice job of transforming his game. For a while, he was settling for his deep jump shooting and not making enough use of his electric first step and athleticism. He has found a much better mix in his game and become one of the most explosive scorers regardless of class.
One of the fiercest competitors at any position, Thornton is a pit bull-intense point guard from California who plays his high school ball at mighty Findlay Prep outside of Las Vegas. In an era where some players duck big-time matchups, Thornton is willing to lace them up against anybody anywhere. He was dynamic on both ends of the floor at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and really earned his move from No. 20 to No. 11 overall.
Finally, Simmons has really come on strong over the last few months. With near 6-foot-5 size, superior quickness and great instincts with the ball, Simmons is a scoring point who has the size to slide over and play off the ball if necessary. He hits holes in the defense quickly, knocks down shots from deep to make an impressive climb from No. 28 to No. 15.
Keep an eye out for
Since the list for the class of 2016 is still in the formative stages, we don't see quite as many big leaps and because of the expansion from a top 60 to a top 100, there are far too many newcomers to address them all here. However, there are a few more standouts to keep a close eye on.
Making the highest debut in the rankings is 6-foot-10 center Abdulhakim Ado who enters the rankings at No. 17 overall. He has great size, is a fluid athlete and looks like he is going to be a dominant shot blocker who also has some offense. If anything, his initial ranking could be a little on the conservative side, but he hasn't had quite as much exposure as some others and Rivals.com would like to see him in a few more settings. But, odds are he will be a household name in the recruiting world by the end of the summer.
Nobody in the class of 2016 plays harder than 6-foot-6 forward Miles Bridges. After a somewhat sluggish sophomore season for a loaded Huntington (W.V.) Prep squad, the native of Michigan was a stud during the spring, which enabled him to move from No. 33 to No. 19. He is powerful, he rebounds, he tests opponents manhood and he is productive on both ends of the floor.
Big man Marques Bolden is just scratching the surface of his potential. The 6-foot-10 Texan hasn't yet gotten an opportunity to play huge minutes for either his high school team or his Texas Titans summer team. But, that is going to be changing soon enough. He has size, touch and is a dangerous straight up shot-blocker who makes his debut at No. 31 overall.
Finally, another Texas big man making early waves is Jarrett Allen. The 6-foot-9 power forward more than held his own against the older post players at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and he has all the tools to be very successful. He enters the rankings at No. 42 nationally, but as is the case with Bolden and Ado, that initial ranking just might be a bit on the conservative side.